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Ray Haynes

Mr. Haynes is an Assembly member representing Riverside and Temecula. He serves on the Appropriations and Budget Committees. [go to Assembly Member Haynes website at California Assembly][go to Haynes index]

Defending Development
Don't build it and they won't come...
[Ray Haynes] 8/3/04

“If you don’t build it, they won’t come.” That philosophy, widely credited to the administration of former Governor Jerry Brown, has corrupted California’s growth both at the state and local level for the last three decades. This is the idea that if we stopped building freeways, water projects, universities and power plants, we wouldn’t be able to sustain future growth and people would stop coming here.

They didn’t.

As a result, we are now facing massive shortages and deterioration of our state’s infrastructure, even as the population continues to grow beyond the capacity of our roads and freeways to handle it. And yet, in nearly every article about trying to expand our highway or freeway system—like efforts to create an alternative to the 91 Freeway between Riverside and Orange County, somebody is opposed because the new roads will “just encourage growth.” Guess what? The growth has already happened without the freeway – and will continue to happen without the freeway. The new freeway will only help us deal with this new and future growth. The only way to stop growth in California would be to implement a Chinese-style forced abortion and sterilization population-control program in combination with a ban on immigration from other states and abroad.

Since neither of those is going to happen, we have two options: We can deal with it, or we can not deal with it. It is fair to require new families and new employers to pay for the infrastructure and resources that they will require. It is NOT fair to expect them to make up for the neglect and mismanagement of the last 30 years of growth in California. It is NOT fair to pile excessive and extortionist fees on new families and employers, some of whom might just be your children and grandchildren someday, just because they don’t live and vote here yet and because you may have been undercharged when you built YOUR house here ten years ago.

So where will we put these new families? If you listen to the slow-growthers, they’re not opposed to new development—as long as we don’t put them in low density housing that causes urban sprawl and habitat destruction, or in high density housing that congests our roads and crowds our schools. Sounds like Goldilocks growth—this housing is too dense, this housing isn’t dense enough. Except with these people, housing is never just right.

The truth is we need both kinds of development. There are some cities that outright prohibit apartments, condos and other attached housing. Others allow them, but when angry slow-growth activists show up at the city council meetings, councilmembers suddenly lose their spines and either pile new mandates and fees on the projects, or reject them outright. In my district, a city council that did neither is now being threatened with recalls! All of these approaches drive down the availability of “affordable” housing that serves not just the poor, but the newly married and retirees, or perhaps even your children, who don’t need four bedrooms and a yard. I will bet you don’t want your kids hanging around your house at 30 simply because they can’t afford their own place.

The larger homes and yards are desirable and necessary for larger families and people who need the space for their recreational equipment, pets and kids. The kinds of houses that most people aspire to one day own, (and the kind that many of the slow-growth advocates already live in. In fact, one of my favorite definitions of a slow-growth activist is “a person who bought their house in the country last year”). If you, or you and your neighbors, however, wish to protect your views of the unspoiled hillsides or fields or forests around you, then you should buy the hillsides, fields or forests. Don’t expect the owners of those properties to voluntarily give up the right to build their own homes there just because their new dream house will offend your aesthetic sensibilities.

We should all realize that just because we’ve already got our house (impacting our neighbor’s quality of life, no doubt), doesn’t give us a right to stop others from trying to pursue their dreams of finding a nice place to live. The people are coming whether we want them to or not. Your children are going to want a house, too. Having the government artificially constrict the supply of housing or tax and fee your future neighbors (or perhaps your own children) to death will only serve to drive up the cost of their housing further. And that’s just not very neighborly, is it? CRO


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